Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Microphysiological systems will revolutionize experimental biology and medicine


The Annual Thematic issue of Experimental Biology and Medicine that appears in September 2014 is devoted to "The biology and medicine of microphysiological systems" and describes the work of scientists participating in the Microphysiological Systems Program directed by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and funded in part by the NIH Common Fund.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are collaborating with the NIH in the program. Fourteen of the research teams supported by the program have contributed papers and represent more than 20 institutions, including Baylor College of Medicine, Columbia University, Cornell University, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, Nortis, Inc., the University of California, Irvine, the University of Central Florida, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Texas Medical Branch, and Vanderbilt University.

Dr. John P. Wikswo, founding Director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Integrative Biosystems Research and Education and Editor of the Thematic Issue, explains in his introductory review that microphysiological systems (MPS) – often called "organs-on-chips" – are interacting sets of constructs of human cells. Each construct is designed to recapitulate the structure and function of a human organ or organ region, and when connected in an MPS, they may provide in vitro models with great physiological accuracy for studying cell-cell, drug-cell, drug-drug, and organ-drug interactions.

The papers in the Thematic Issue describe the ongoing development of MPS as in vitro models for bone and cartilage, brain, gastrointestinal tract, lung, liver, microvasculature, reproductive tract, skeletal muscle, and skin, as well as the interconnection of organs-on-chips to support physiologically based pharmacokinetics and drug discovery and screening, and the microscale technologies that regulate stem cell differentiation. Wikswo notes that the initial motivation for creating MPS was to increase the efficiency and human relevance of pharmaceutical development and testing.

Obvious applications of the technology include studies of the effect of environmental toxins on humans, identification, characterization, and neutralization of chemical and biological weapons, controlled studies of the microbiome and infectious disease that cannot be conducted in humans, controlled differentiation of induced pluripotent stem cells into specific adult cellular phenotypes, and studies of the dynamics of metabolism and signaling within and between human organs.

In his commentary for the Thematic Issue, Dr. William Slikker Jr., Director of the FDA's National Center for Toxicological Research, writes "The goal [is] to accomplish this human-on-a-chip capability in a decade – a feat somewhat equivalent to the moon shot of the 1960s – and, like landing man on the moon, simulating a human being from a physiological/toxicological perspective may indeed be possible. But even if ultimately it is not, a great deal of fundamental biology and physiology will be elucidated along the way, much to the benefit of our understanding of human health and disease processes."

Dr. D. Lansing Taylor, Director of the University of Pittsburgh Drug Discovery Institute, says "The Thematic Issue brings together the leaders of the field of Human-on-a-Chip to discuss the early successes, great potential and continuing challenges of this emerging field. For complete success, we must integrate advances in multiple technical areas, including microfluidics, stem cell biology, 3D microstructures/matrices, multi-cell engineering, universal blood substitutes, and a variety of biological detection technologies, database tools, and computational modeling for both single and a combination of organ systems. Success will be transformative for basic biology, physiology, pharmacology, toxicology and medicine, as well as the new field of quantitative systems pharmacology, where iterative experimentation and computational modeling of disease models and pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics are central. The focus is to create physiologically relevant, robust, reproducible and cost-effective tools for the scientific community."

Dr. Danilo A. Tagle, NIH NCATS Associate Director for Special Initiatives, adds "This special issue highlights the exciting and rapid progress towards development of MPS for drug safety and efficacy testing. Much progress has been achieved in the two years of the program, and these articles describe the efforts by an outstanding group of investigators towards realizing the goal of fully integrated 10 organ systems. There are tremendous scientific opportunities and discoveries that could be had in the future utility of these tissues/organs on chips."

Dr. Steven R. Goodman, Editor-in-Chief of Experimental Biology and Medicine, agrees. "We are proud to publish this Thematic Issue dedicated to "The biology and medicine of microphysiological systems." Dr. John Wikswo is to be congratulated for assembling an exceptional group of researchers who are leaders in the field of MPS and the many uses of this exciting technology. MPS has the potential to revolutionize experimental biology and medicine. Because of the great importance and promise of organs-on-chips and MPS technology, it has now become a major area of emphasis for the Systems Biology category of Experimental Biology and Medicine."


Experimental Biology and Medicine is a journal dedicated to the publication of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research in the biomedical sciences. The journal was first established in 1903. Experimental Biology and Medicine is the journal of the Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine. To learn about the benefits of society membership visit If you are interested in publishing in the journal please visit

John P. Wikswo | Eurek Alert!

Further reports about: Biology Drug MPS Medicine NIH Vanderbilt humans organs pharmacokinetics pharmacology technologies

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New study reveals what's behind a tarantula's blue hue
01.12.2015 | University of California - San Diego

nachricht Tracing a path toward neuronal cell death
01.12.2015 | Brigham and Women's Hospital

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: How do Landslides control the weathering of rocks?

Chemical weathering in mountains depends on the process of erosion.

Chemical weathering of rocks over geological time scales is an important control on the stability of the climate. This weathering is, in turn, highly dependent...

Im Focus: How Cells in the Developing Ear ‘Practice’ Hearing

Before the fluid of the middle ear drains and sound waves penetrate for the first time, the inner ear cells of newborn rodents practice for their big debut. Researchers at Johns Hopkins report they have figured out the molecular chain of events that enables the cells to make “sounds” on their own, essentially “practicing” their ability to process sounds in the world around them.

The researchers, who describe their experiments in the Dec. 3 edition of the journal Cell, show how hair cells in the inner ear can be activated in the absence...

Im Focus: Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

European Geosciences Union meeting: Media registration now open (EGU 2016 media advisory 1)

01.12.2015 | Event News

Urbanisation and migration from rural areas challenging agriculture in Eastern Europe

30.11.2015 | Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Latest News

USGS projects large loss of Alaska permafrost by 2100

01.12.2015 | Earth Sciences

New study reveals what's behind a tarantula's blue hue

01.12.2015 | Life Sciences

Climate Can Grind Mountains Faster Than They Can Be Rebuilt

01.12.2015 | Earth Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>